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In The Garden

Selecting the Best Tomato Varieties for Your Garden

There are thousands of tomatoes available, learn how to pick a variety that will survive and thrive

Tomatoes on vines in a field during a bright summer day. Play Video

An annual all-star among gardeners, the tomato is a beloved and beautiful fruit that disguises itself as a vegetable. Botanically speaking, tomatoes are defined as fruits because they form from a flower and contain seeds (like a strawberry, for example). They’re most often utilized like a vegetable in cooking, however, thus nutritionists typically consider tomatoes to be a vegetable.

Fruit, vegetable. Tomay-to, tomah-to. The big question on most folks’ minds is, What are the differences in varieties, and which type of tomato should I grow?

We hear you, tomatoes can be tricky at times. One person’s pride and joy is the bane of another person’s backyard garden. Part of the challenge is the sheer volume of tomato varieties available.

With more than 10,000 tomato varieties available, planting the perfect tomato can be challenging.

To help make things easier for you, we brought in one of our local gardening gurus, Cheralyn Berry, N.C. Cooperative Extension agent in Durham County, who knows a thing or two about growing tomatoes in the South.

Watch and learn how to pick a tomato variety that will survive and thrive in your home or garden! Or continue reading below to learn more about the different types of tomatoes, and how best to grow and enjoy them.

Tomato Plants | Growth Types

If you want to enhance your odds of growing tomato plants with plump, juicy fruit, it’s important up front to consider both the growth habit (size) and fruit type (actual tomato).

Not all tomatoes grow equally. Take time to consider the space you have available, whether you want to grow inside or outdoors, and of course how often you’d like to pick plump tomatoes off the plant.

Tomato Fruit Types

Think about what you want out of your tomatoes and how you plan to use them. Are you looking for a pick-and-pop snack or salad topping all summer? Trying to stock up on canned tomatoes for family and friends?

Here’s a quick guide on the different types of tomatoes to help you make the right choice for your needs:

Five Fast Tomato Recipes

Tomatoes are used to make everything from soup to sandwiches to salsa. Speaking of spicy, did you know tomatoes were once thought to have aphrodisiac qualities and were referred to as “love apples” by the French in the 1600s?

Here are five tasty tomato recipes you’re sure to love:


Authentic Southern Tomato Sandwich


1 serving



  • 1 big, fresh tomato (beefsteak or other thick and juicy variety)
  • 2 slices white bread
  • Duke’s mayonnaise
  • Salt and ground black pepper


  1. Cut tomato into thick slices; season with salt and pepper to taste
  2. Spread mayonnaise on both slices of bread
  3. Add 2-3 tomato slices (or more) to one slice of bread, then top with remaining slice of bread
  4. Smoosh everything together a bit to soak up the juices

    Recipe courtesy of Tammy Kelly, N.C. Cooperative Extension – Lenoir County
Print Recipe 

More ‘Mater Materials

Americans love tomatoes, consuming more than 20 pounds per person each year. There are thousands of different cultivars of this popular summer staple, ranging from large, plump heirloom varieties to patio-friendly, bite-size tomato treats in many different colors and shapes.

Want to try your hand at growing tomatoes?

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